By Zach Enfinger
Recently I read a so called “best of” list by a popular Orlando newspaper, and after I felt a little frustrated by the copious amount of chain restaurants on the list. Orlando is more than Disney, Seaworld, and Putt-putt golfing. So, here are a few of my personal picks for the best Orlando has to offer, in no particular order. Side note: a few of these are technically in Winter Park (it’s close enough).
1.Best Vegetarian/ Vegan Restaurant: Dandelion Communitea Cafe
Dandelion Cafe is a great place to take your vegetarian or vegan friends and family. Along with a friendly staff, the restaurant turns out delicious food for even those who may be a bit wary of “vegetarian” food. I can say from experience that their black bean burrito and hummus is easily some of the best in Orlando (which they have been rewarded for). Along with all that, every Tuesday they have an open mic for spoken word and poetry. The first time I went there it actually turned out to be one of their nights. I’ve been to a number of open mics and I have to say Dandelion has one of the most relaxed atmospheres. The talent of their community of poets and fun/ professional host really brings everything together.
2. Best Gastro Pub (or bar and grill): Oblivion Taproom
If I had to describe Oblivion in only a few words I’d say, “best wings EVER!” but thankfully the Beer Gods have given me more words! The food; they have burgers, quesadillas, WINGS, and even pizza now. All of which are handmade and with only the love a mother could provide. The beer; look all I’m going to do is give you the link to their beer list and let you decide. The staff is incredibly nice and the whole place has an authentic punk rock vibe. Now just imagine yourself enjoying a delicious burger and beer while you get to listen to a J Mascis guitar solo from your favorite Dinosaur Jr song. And if that doesn’t sound like heaven to you then I don’t want to go.
3. Best Coffee: Austin’s Coffee
This may be my most controversial pick just because I know how defensive people become over their coffee. But anytime I’ve ever been to Austin’s and had some coffee or a mocha it’s always tasted really great! I like the feel of the coffee shop too, it’s got an artsy and a bit hippy vibe to the place and I don’t get the feeling I’m being judged like at a another coffee chain (The one with the mermaid logo). They’ve also got a solid open mic with some great local musicians and comics.
4. Best Pizza: Wine Barn & Rustic Pizza
This one may be may sound like a weird choice at first if you’ve never heard of it before now. The Wine Barn is a great store that sells a ton of quality wine at pretty reasonable prices, but right behind the store are a couple of guys and a wood fire oven cooking pizza. A few months ago my roommates and I went to the Wine Barn because we heard it had some really great pizza and wine (disclaimer: I’m not really a “wine guy” but both of my roommates seemed to really enjoy the wine selection, and they’re much fancier people than I am). So after sitting at their one table we decided to order some pizza and eat it there, AND IT WAS MIND BLOWING! My taste palate is pretty unrefined but one of the chiefs described their pizza as sushi, in that it hits in all of the flavors (sour, sweet, salty, delicious, etc.). So do you guys get what I’m saying? They have really good pizza; so grab your phone and order some pizza, pick up a bottle of wine and go home a watch a really good movie.
5. Best Theater: Enzian Theater
This is definitely the place to go for all those small independent movies you always want to see but never can find at the mainstream theaters. They always have the latest indie films and documentaries. Along with that they also show cult classic movies on Tuesdays (like The Warriors) and have family friendly movies (like The Shaggy Dog) on the second Thursday of each month that are free! With also a discount for students and senior citizens (I paid 8 bucks for my ticket) the prices are pretty reasonable compared to other movie theaters. You can also order food, drinks, and coffee/espressos right before the movie starts. Just make sure and get there with enough time to grab a seat, they fill up fast!
ALSO! They are the host to The Florida Film Festival, which is a great way to support local filmmakers and this community in Florida. The festival runs from April 4th through the 13th, I definitely plan on attended at least a few of these dates.
You guys think I missed your favorite spot in Orlando? Well, I probably did! So add them in the comments! This article was basically just an excuse for me to point out some of my favorite places to go to in Orlando and to hopefully prove a point that Orlando has unique and fun places to go to that doesn’t involve a mouse or a national chain behind it.
Zack wrote this article while listening to The Talking Heads, because they’re a great band! To get in contact with me simply follow on Twitter @ZackEnfinger